Letting Go Again
by Ellen M. Morrison, Ph.D.
It's 8:11 a.m. on a Tuesday. School day. For the past eleven years, this particular time of day has meant "get to school." For all the changes that we have experienced, different jobs, different schools, different priorities, those powerful moments between 8:00 and 8:30 have always raised the pulse. "Shake a leg, we'll be late for school!" . . . "Whew! Made it to school 30 seconds before first bell!" . . . looking at my watch in New York at 11:30 a.m., hoping "Dad" got her to school on time. This morning, though, instead of leading the panicked rush out the door, I have become a spectator. I stand on the front porch, holding the cat against his will and pathetically waving his paw, as she drives away alone for the first time, giving a broad grin and a thumbs up as she glides down the street.
We don't let go of our children all at once, but rather moment by moment. There's the moment you first leave her with a friend or relative for a dinner out because they insist that you need time to be a couple. There's the first day back to work, the deep ache in your chest and tears in your throat. The first weekend away, the first steps, the first sleepover, the first fight over what she'll wear, her choice of friends, her hair color. Every time you let go, you know it's time, you know it's right, and you know it feels too soon and all wrong. I feel so foolish, choked with tears when she calls to tell me she made the 10 mile drive to school safely. Of course she did. She's driven that route more than a hundred times in the past ten months as I sipped coffee and tried to feel natural on the passenger side. Why does this all feel too soon, when I knew it was coming, planned for it, looked forward to the freedom it would buy me? How can it feel wrong when I realize how much more driving experience she has had than I did when I first drove off alone to school? Why do I feel the reminiscent ache in my chest when I know what a mature, considerate, cautious young woman she is, what good sense she has demonstrated as a driver? Maybe I thought it was all about concern for her safety, when it was really about the lost opportunities for casual chatting, learning about friends and teachers, or just quietly sharing the same space that taxiing her around provided. It's about her not needing me as much. It's about letting go, again.
Bio: Ellen M. Morrison, Ph.D., left a successful career as health care researcher, speaker, and author to custom design a work/home life as an independent author and involved parent. During the past five years, Ellen has seen her only daughter blossom into a confident, centered, and caring young adult. In addition to various volunteer activities and mentoring her daughter in English, French, and Social Studies, Ellen continues to write and edit health care reports and articles. She has also written her first novel, recently published, a mystery for middle school-aged children (Murder's Take: The First Adventure of Sam and Sam).
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